Ukrainian students return home with precious memories

Posted on April 20, 2011 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Sad to leave but excited to get home, Lena, Nastya and Anastsiya prepare a special Ukranian dish for their farewell party.

Our three Ukrainian exchange students and their teacher are headed back to Kaniv, Sonoma’s Sister City, after making many friends here and sharing much of their culture. They leave full of beautiful impressions of California and all the people they met in Sonoma Valley.  

One of the girls said, “Ukraine differs so much from the United States. It has been such a good experience, and I wish we could stay longer.” As Alina Kharchenko, their teacher, said, “Americans are so kind and generous and sincere and open.”  One girl told the host families, “This has been a dream all my life, and you have made it come true.”

 The teens attended the high school and visited several other schools. During the three-week visit, they danced for six audiences, offered workshops in making intricate Ukrainian Easter eggs, put on an exhibition of music, dance, and arts, and at the open mic at Readers’ Books they read a poem by Shevchenko, Ukraine’s national poet. 

And they leave singing songs from “South Pacific,” the high school’s current theater production.
 They enjoyed Sonoma’s historical sites and led a photography walk around the plaza. They joined a Sonoma Ecology Center night walk and visited an ecological restoration project at Limentour Beach. They were welcomed by the City Council and at a crowded public reception, and were guests at a Rotary Club lunch and at La Luz center’s ‘brown bag’ dinner. They attended a premier dance performance in Berkeley and toured Sacramento and San Francisco and walked the Golden Gate Bridge.  They especially loved seeing the redwoods and the Sonoma coast. 

 And it was not only our visitors who benefited.  Many were inspired and touched by them, and many have made new local friends through their visit.  As one host father said, “I saw my own country for the first time since I was a boy.”   All the girls were agreed: “We will welcome any of you in our homes any time.”

 Kharchenko also said, “These student exchanges change lives, but it takes many people to make this possible.  If we are interested in this continuing, we need to take action.”  If you would like to help develop these exchanges, please contact [email protected] or call 935-1225.  If you would like to develop student exchanges with any of our six other sister cities, please contact [email protected]

To be in contact with the girls or know how they are in the future, you may contact [email protected] 

 The students and the organizers deeply thank so many for their generous support, including the Sonoma Valley School District and the high school, The Sonoma Sun, Sonoma Ballet Conservatory, Fine Line Arts, Sonoma Sister Cities Association, Friends of Kaniv, Rotary, Scott Sherman and the Framery, The Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa, David Bolling, The Red Grape, Jeni and Byron Nichols, Jim Tonery and the Ropes Course, and of course the host families: the Blinmans, the Tremblays, and the Collins.

To be in contact with the girls or know how they are in the future, you may contact [email protected]

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